Former MP Jean Lapierre, six others killed in Quebec plane crash
Published Tuesday, March 29, 2016 2:30PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:52PM EDT
Former MP Jean Lapierre and members of his family were among those killed in a plane crash Tuesday in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine, as they headed to eastern Quebec to attend a funeral for Lapierre’s father.
The crash occurred Tuesday amid poor weather, police said.
The Quebec coroner's office identified the victims as Lapierre, his spouse Nicole Beaulieu, his brothers Marc and Louis, and his sister Martine, as well as crew members Pascal Gosselin and Fabrice Labourel.
Lapierre, 59, tweeted on Monday that his father had died at the age of 83 after a long battle with Parkinson's.
Lapierre became one of the youngest members of Parliament in the history of the country in 1979, when he was elected at the age of 23 to represent the Liberals in the Quebec riding of Shefford. He would serve as MP until 1993.
He later joined the Bloc Quebecois caucus, only to depart in the early 1990s and eventually rejoined the federal Liberals in 2004 as an MP for Outremont. During that time, then-prime minister Paul Martin appointed Lapierre to his cabinet. Lapierre served as his minister of transport from 2004-2006.
In recent years, Lapierre remained in the public eye across Quebec and Canada as a political pundit, offering commentary and analysis on CTV News, Quebec network TVA and other radio stations in Quebec.
Appearing on CTV's Power Play, Martin said he spoke to his friend a couple weeks ago and had made plans to get together.
He said he first met Lapierre as an MP, and they saw each other "all the time" because they had farms "side-by-side" in the Shefford riding.
"Gosh, we're going to miss him. We're going to miss him terribly," said Martin.
"I'll remember him as a wonderful person."
Martin said Lapierre was "built for politics, and he went in it for the right reasons."
He also described Lapierre as one of the "finest political analysts" that he had ever met, saying he worked hard and "left no stone unturned."
"I want to remember him as a great friend who had deep insights … somebody who really understood the country, who understood what the political process was all about," said Martin.
"A lot of people comment on the political process. Jean Lapierre lived it, and knew."
Following the news of his death, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he was "shaken" by the incident and said it was a "great loss to the political world."
Shaken by the sudden death of the Hon. Jean Lapierre on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. A great loss to the political world.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 29, 2016
The leaders of the other major federal parties also offered their condolences.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in a statement that Lapierre was a "formidable parliamentarian and minister" and will be "deeply missed" by politicians of every stripe, Quebecers and Canadians.
"We will miss this gifted communicator who, more often than not, determined the political issue of the day," said Mulcair.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose described Lapierre in a series of tweets as a "charming" and "happy warrior," adding she was "praying for those touched by this heartbreaking tragedy."
I remember meeting Jean Lapierre when I was first elected in 2004. He was charming, a happy warrior with a powerful presence in Ottawa. 1/2— Rona Ambrose (@RonaAmbrose) March 29, 2016
Je ne peux m’imaginer la peine que doit avoir la famille Lapierre. Mes prières sont avec les personnes touchées par cette tragédie. 2/2— Rona Ambrose (@RonaAmbrose) March 29, 2016
In an appearance on CTV's Power Play, former cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy, who served alongside Lapierre, described him as an "an incredibly articulate person about politics in this country."
W5 Host Lloyd Robertson, former chief anchor and senior editor of CTV News, said he was "shocked" by the news of the crash, calling it a "sad day."
Robertson described Lapierre as a "very smart" analyst who knew the politics of Quebec "inside and out.”
Robertson said Lapierre's knowledge was on full display on the night of the 1995 Quebec referendum, when he predicted the results were going to be "achingly close."
"He knew precisely where the votes were coming from, what the mood with the Quebec electoral was," recalled Robertson.
Robertson said Lapierre also predicted the Orange Crush movement during the 2011 federal election, when then-NDP leader Jack Layton became the Official Opposition on the strength of the party's support in Quebec.
Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau with the Quebec provincial police told CTV News Channel on Tuesday that it was windy and snowing heavily at the time of the crash. Police are still investigating the cause of the crash, as well as trying to confirm the identities of all those on board.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will be launching a full investigation into the accident. Its team is expected to arrive on site tomorrow.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau offered his condolences to Lapierre's family and said the former MP will be "greatly missed."
Garneau said the TSB's team will be heading to the Iles-de-la-Madeleine "as soon as weather permits."
He said the Ministry of Transportation will also send an observer to collaborate with the TSB team.
When asked about the conditions, Garneau said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash.
TSB spokesman Chris Krepski told CTV News Channel that the team will focus on gathering as much data as possible, including information from air-traffic control, witnesses and by examining the site.
Krepski echoed Garneau's statements, saying it is "too early to say" if the weather played a factor in the crash.
The plane has been identified as Mitsubishi turboprop, which reportedly belonged to a private company.
Keith Mackey, president of Mackey International Aviation Safety Consultants, told CTV News Channel that it appears as though there was a confluence of factors that contributed to the crash, including: the snow, a crosswind, a short runway at the Iles-de-la-Madeleine airport and the type of aircraft.
Mackey said the Mitsubishi MU-2 was first introduced in the 1960s and has "very bad safety record."
In total, he said there have been 330 deaths in MU-2 crashes.
Mackey said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is now requiring pilots to have special training for the aircraft.
Witness Antonin Valiquette said he saw the plane hit the ground, bounce over a small hill and crash a second time before coming to a stop.
"I saw the plane hit the ground, went up the hill … there was a lot of parts flying around … and the condition of the plane after that was a wreck, honestly," Valiquette told CTV News Channel.
"The second hit really took its toll on the plane."
Valiquette estimated that the crash site was about five or six kilometres from the local airport.
With files from The Canadian Press
Écrasement d'avion aux îles de la Madeleine ... pic.twitter.com/b2BGTlYLVQ— Lapierre Jonathan (@jonlapierre1806) March 29, 2016